February 14, 2022

Why the Next Supply Chain Leader Should be a Woman

By:
Sushmitha Gandur

This blog post shows research done on gender diversity and why women are better suited...

Many industries face a significant gender gap for those in power. Only 4.9% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 2% of S&P 500 CEOs are women. In most sectors, men tend to hold more leadership roles than women. Apart from the glass ceiling, the invisible barrier holding women back from leadership positions, women leaders also face a phenomenon called the “glass cliff.” As described by Harvard Business Review, the glass cliff is an idea that a female leader is often put in charge to save it when a company is in trouble. They are handed something that is already broken where the chances of failure are high, making it even harder to progress in their careers (Source: Lee, K., The supply chain gender gap.

Gender inequalities are particularly evident in the supply chain industry. Between 70% and 80% of positions within the supply chain industry are held by men and 95% of top level supply chain positions within Fortune 500 companies are held by men. By comparison, men hold 85% of all executive officer positions within Fortune 500 companies (Source: Fronetics.com).

Supply chain gender gap infographic

This blog post highlights research done on gender diversity and why women might be better suited than men to hold leadership positions. It also spotlights the next generation of women supply chain leaders and how they have become disruptors in the industry.

Why Women are Better Leaders than Men

Research has shown that a more diverse team has outperformed on several business metrics like resilience, innovation and profitability. For example, a study by Harvard Business School that surveyed 1,069 leading firms across 35 countries found that gender diversity correlates to increased productivity. According to the Harvard Business Review study, women score higher than men in most leadership skills. On average, the study showed that women outscored men on 17 of the 19 capabilities.

Zenger and Folkman Harvard Gender Diversity Study Capability Chart

Between March and June 2020, 54 men and 366 women were evaluated on their leadership effectiveness using the Extraordinary Leader 360-degree assessment. Consistent with the pre-pandemic analysis, we found that women were rated significantly more positively than men (Zenger, J., & Folkman, J., 2020, Women Are Better Leaders During a Crisis).

Zenger, J., & Folkman, J., 2020, Women Are Better Leaders During a Crisis-Engagement Infographic
Zenger, J., & Folkman, J., 2020, Women Are Better Leaders During a Crisis Infographic

Female Supply Chain Trailblazers

Here are just a few women supply chain leaders trailblazers in this industry. These women were chosen based on their hard work, community outreach, and dedication to supply chain innovation.

Sheri Hinish

Sheri Hinish – Sheri Hinish, also known as the Supply Chain Queen, is the Global Executive Partner at IBM. She hosts a top podcast called the Supply Chain Revolution that features companies like Microsoft, SAP.iO, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Pyxera Global, IBM and Starbucks. She is an expert in sustainable chains and complex transformations. She also has two master’s degrees in Sustainability and Supply Chain from Harvard University & Rutgers Business School. Sheri Hinish is among LinkedIn’s Top 1% Social Selling Index (SSI) in Supply Chain, has received 22 awards, has multiple certifications, and even worked on 13 publications.  With over 44k followers on LinkedIn and over 100 LinkedIn skills endorsements, Sheri Hinish  is an inspiration to many.  

Deborah Dull

Deborah Dull – Deborah Dull has worked for Microsoft, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and was the Principal of Manufacturing Product Management at GE Digital. Currently, she is the founder of the Circular Supply Chain Network and a Senior Director of Research for Zero100. She is also the author of "Circular Supply Chain: 17 Common Questions How Any Supply Chain Can Take the Next Step.” Her refreshing perspective on how to optimize supply chains is what makes her an expert in the field.

Sarah Barnes Humphrey

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey – Sarah Barnes-Humphrey is the founder and the host of the Let’s Talk Supply Chain Podcast. The podcast features expert guest speakers who talk about various topics related to supply chain.  She is also the co-founder of Blended Pledge and the Blended Podcast. She has earned a certification in Women’s Entrepreneurship from Cornell University and is also a LinkedIn Instructor. Sarah’s dedication to educating others on supply chain is shaping the next generation of supply chain leaders.

Rosemary Coates

Rosemary Coates – Rosemary Coates is a best-selling author of 5 books on reshoring, sourcing, and manufacturing in China. She is the founder of Reshoring Institute, president and founder of Blue Silk Consulting, and a Kinetic River Corporation Board member. Rosemary has 30 years of expertise in global supply chain and procurement, with manufacturing expertise focusing on Chinese sourcing, manufacturing and expert witnessing. Rosemary’s books and firsthand field experience have helped many leaders navigate global supply chains and foreign manufacturers.

The future is female

Communication and other soft skills are the most robust tools available to women at their disposal. In studies testing engagement level, women leaders scored higher because of interpersonal skills like collaboration, teamwork, persuasion and relationship building.


Employees prefer leaders who are not only honest and trustworthy but also are empathetic. Female leaders display these traits more than male leaders. Companies need to recognize that the future is moving towards more inclusion and diversity in leadership roles. Executives need to prioritize hiring women as decision-makers within their organization. As supply chain disruptions increase at an alarming rate, now more than ever, women supply chain leaders need to be given a chance to guide businesses through these unprecedented times.